It’s International Women’s Day on Friday 8th March. The theme this year is ‘building a gender balanced world’ but I want to talk about balancing support for mental health. This week, Keith Flint from the Prodigy killed himself. His green-hair picture is more shocking than the news story, because male suicide no longer surprises us. We tut and say, ‘tragic’ and turn the page.
There are always patchy reasons why it happened. Divorce, cancer. We need something to pin it on to make us feel safe. None of us are safe from mental ill-health.
Depression is not a weakness, it’s a deficiency. We have no problem taking cod liver oil, or an effervescent vitamin C tablet, but antidepressants are the social outcasts of supplements. The neighbours who leave mattresses in their front garden.
We can only see the world through the kaleidoscope of our experiences, beliefs, politics and persuasions. We cannot see someone else’s life from someone else’s perception, so we judge them from our own. I’m not scared of wasps. My brother is. This doesn’t make him weaker than me. I will take anxiety medication for the rest of my life, but I am not scared of wasps. I am not weaker than him.
My post-natal depression got to the point where I didn’t want to wake up. In my head the Stone Roses sang ‘Stop the world, stop the world, I’m getting off.’ Luckily, I had midwives and health-care visitors checking up on me. My struggle was spotted I was inundated with support. I told someone how I felt. No shame. I got some sleep. I ate oranges. I learned to love myself.
Men don’t get the same care offered when they become fathers. There is no male midwife-man to talk to about lack of sleep, financial worries, or the fact their wife has become a stranger since becoming a mother.
Men are being left out in the emotional cold. You don’t see Radox adverts of men relaxing in the bath, and spas advertise women with cucumbers over their eyes.